A while back, when Massachusetts first started offering same-sex marriage licenses (huzzah!), I posted (Re)Reading Leviticus, my explanation for how I can reconcile my queer-friendly politics with my love of Torah. This week, I'm exploring those same themes again.
This week's Torah portion, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, contains that tricky verse, Leviticus 18:22, which declares lying with a man as one lies with a woman to be to'evah. In this week's post at Radical Torah, I begin by asserting that the verse needs to be read in context:
There's a staggering difference between reading the verse as a pithy one-line aphorism (along the lines of the position GodHatesFigs.com parodies), and reading it embedded in the chapter where it belongs. The chapter is book-ended by exhortations to the Israelites to avoid imitating the other peoples around them. It begins, "What is done in the land of Egypt, wherein you were settled, you are not to do; what is done in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you, you are not to do; by their laws you are not to walk." (transl. Fox.) And the final six verses of the chapter state clearly (and repeatedly) that the Israelites are to avoid defiling themselves through these behaviors in which the nations on this land before them engaged...
I argue that the verse may mean something very specific (not what we think of as "queer" identity today), that it may be saying something about mindfulness and power dynamics, and that there are ways of reading it beyond the purely literal (indeed, the rabbinic tradition has a deep tradition of doing just that -- when was the last time you saw a disobedient son stoned to death?)
Read the whole thing here: Ways to redeem one problematic line.